AFC Cup 2019: John Gregory - Need to perform better if Chennaiyin want to top group

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The former Aston Villa manager thinks there is still work to do after remaining unbeaten halfway through the group stage...

A Wellington Priori own goal gave Chennaiyin FC their second win in Group E of the 2019 AFC Cup. The 1-0 win over Abahani Dhaka at the TransStadia in Ahmedabad propelled them to the top of the standings at the half-way mark of the group stage.

"Delighted to get the three points. It’s always nice to play attractive football and win convincingly. But we get only three points at the end of it. The opposition tested us and did not give us an inch. They sent in about 20-25 long balls and we dealt with it. Defensively we were outstanding with Mailson (Alves) and (Eli) Sabia. Our team spirit got us through and that keeps us going. The boys are really tight together. I have to credit the players and we got another clean sheet," Chennaiyin manager John Gregory said after the win over the Bangladeshi side.

He continued, "We still have a lot of work to do. We have to go to Bangladesh and Nepal. They are going to be difficult grounds to go to. The pitches will be tough. Facing those long throws are tough and is difficult to play against. But the group is in our hands at the moment. We will enjoy the result for a little while.

"It wasn’t a great performance from us but it was a tenacious performance. We know that we need to play better than this if we are to top the group."

Assessing the game, the Englishman said, "They sat back and let us have the ball in our half of the pitch. We had to change it a little bit with Raphael (Augusto) absent. We gave the ball away a lot in the first half. But things improved and I knew that we would get stronger as the game went on.

Chennaiyin vs Abahani AFC Cup

"Chris (Herd) and Dhanapal (Ganesh) are more defensively minded. I thought Germanpreet (Singh) had a good game after coming on. But the performance was not the best. But it is a good thing when you grind out a win.

"Herd has been carrying on with an injury and it got worse when he got belted. He wanted to play on but the physio took the call to take him out and we took the risk of throwing German on and he did very well."

Former India international Mohammad Rafi's continued selection in the AFC Cup comes as a bit of a surprise considering he was rarely used in the domestic season.

Gregory however, was impressed by the striker. "I picked him in a relatively unusual position. I wanted him to play closer to Jeje (Lalpekhlua) but sometimes, I wanted to keep everybody fresh. I have chopped and changed a little bit. So, we have thrown the dice a little bit with team selections. Rafi has not let the team down. I’ve been happy with him and the likes of Issac (Vanmalsawma). So everyone needs to contribute."

"I am just carrying on and taking it game by game. We’ll see what happens after the summer. My focus is on trying to win the AFC Cup group stage," Gregory concluded speaking on his future at the club for next season.

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